Rangi and Papa

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In Māori mythology the primal couple Rangi and Papa (or Ranginui and Papatuanuku) appear in a creation myth explaining the origin of the world. In some South Island dialects, Rangi is called Raki or Rakinui.[1]

Contents

Union and separation

Rangi and Papa are the primordial parents, the sky father and the earth mother who lie locked together in a tight embrace. They have many children[2] all of which are male, who are forced to live in the cramped darkness between them.[3] These children grow and discuss among themselves what it would be like to live in the light. Tūmatauenga, the fiercest of the children, proposes that the best solution to their predicament is to kill their parents (Grey 1956:2).

But his brother Tāne (or Tāne-mahuta) disagrees, suggesting that it is better to push them apart, to let Rangi be as a stranger to them in the sky above while Papa will remain below to nurture them. The others put their plans into action—Rongo, the god of cultivated food, tries to push his parents apart, then Tangaroa, the god of the sea, and his sibling Haumia-tiketike, the god of wild food, join him. In spite of their joint efforts Rangi and Papa remain close together in their loving embrace. After many attempts Tāne, god of forests and birds, forces his parents apart. Instead of standing upright and pushing with his hands as his brothers have done, he lies on his back and pushes with his strong legs. Stretching every sinew Tāne pushes and pushes until, with cries of grief and surprise, Ranginui and Papatuanuku were pried apart (Grey 1956:2-3, Biggs 1966:448).[4]

War in heaven and earth

And so the children of Rangi and Papa see light and have space to move for the first time. While the other children have agreed to the separation Tāwhirimātea, the god of storms and winds, is angered that the parents have been torn apart. He cannot bear to hear the cries of his parents nor see the tears of Rangi as they are parted, he promises his siblings that from henceforth they will have to deal with his anger. He flies off to join Rangi and there carefully fosters his own many offspring who include the winds, one of whom is sent to each quarter of the compass. To fight his brothers, Tāwhirimātea gathers an army of his children—winds and clouds of different kinds, including fierce squalls, whirlwinds, gloomy thick clouds, fiery clouds, hurricane clouds and thunderstorm clouds, and rain, mists and fog. As these winds show their might the dust flies and the great forest trees of Tāne are smashed under the attack and fall to the ground, food for decay and for insects (Grey 1956:3-6, Tregear 1891:54, Biggs 1966:448-449).

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